Real Friends (paperback)
by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
AR Level (no quiz yet)
Real Friends made my heart hurt. It hit way, way, way too close to home for me. Not the home I live in today, but the one from when I was in elementary school. This is the story of Shannon, a girl with a vivid imagination who enjoyed writing. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t always do everything right in her friendships nor with her siblings, but she was gravely mistreated by the girls in the popular group and misunderstood/ignored by her mother. Shannon had to find out the hard way that being in the popular group isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially with mean girls who often dress better and compete for attention. Shannon finally realizes who she is and she stands up for herself, but not before suffering a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety, basically ruining her elementary school experience.
What I liked about this book is that students can either relate to Shannon’s experience (like myself), or they can see how damaging being in the popular group can be for someone on the outskirts. It was really hard to read this, because it was such an emotional story. I think it is really important for girls to read this book, because it seems like someone is either out with the in crowd, or the in crowd itself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it did hurt to read it. I didn’t want Shannon to be abused by her “friends” at school or her sister at home, but it is her experience (the author’s), and important to read.
Book 5 of summer 2017!
MARCH: Book One (paperback)
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
AR Level 4.6, 1 point
Book One of the MARCH trilogy introduces us to John Lewis’s upbringing and entrance into the Civil Rights Movement. Rep. Lewis was raised in the South on a farm. He preached to the chickens while fighting for the chance to attend school and gain an education. Others saw something in him and gave him the chance to use his skill and passion to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and join the movement. In this book, he stages peaceful sit-ins so African Americans could eat at food counters.
What I like about this book is it gives details on something I know bits and pieces about. It is a graphic novel, and non-fiction, which is unusual. It is a great way to retell history in a way that is not exactly entertaining, but engaging. I want to make sure all of my students read this book so they learn about a part of history that is important, but not taught in detail.
What I didn’t like about this book isn’t something that can be helped. Because of the context, there is a lot of language in this book. I know the word nigger is one that is used in must my students listen to and their parents don’t blink an eye, but it different when I am providing a book that includes it. It is important for them to see how this word was used and why it isn’t to be taken lightly. I just worry that not everyone will see that, and I’ll have to take this valuable piece of literature out of my library.
Book 2 of Summer 2017!
Anya’s Ghost (paperback)
by Vera Brosgol
AR Level 2.3, 1 point
Anya’s Ghost is about a girl named Anya who is uncomfortable with herself. She does not look like everyone else (tall, thin, pretty) and she has an embarrassing Russian mother who doesn’t understand Anya. Anya has been smoking and skipping class, and she falls into a hole where she meets a ghost. The ghost follows her home when Anya accidentally picks up one of the bones, and it seems like the ghost helps Anya, until Anya realizes she has to help herself.
What I liked about this book was the message- to like yourself for who you are. This is a good message for my tweens, and although they may not hear it from a book, I think as many ways we can expose them to that message, the better. My students can all articulate it, but they don’t always FEEL it.
What I didn’t like was that there was some language that could be inappropriate for 11 and 12 year olds, including the word whore. There was also smoking and drinking. I am not taking it out of my library, so I hope parents are okay with taking the bad with the good!
Book 36 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Snow White (hardcover)
by Matt Phelan
no AR quiz yet
In this fractured fairy tale told in a graphic novel format, Snow White takes place during the 1920’s and 30’s. Her father is in the stock market and her step mother is an actress who insists Snow go to boarding school. When her father dies, Snow’s step mother says she has to stay in the guest room, and then sends a man to kill her. Snow escapes and meets a group of 7 boys, who take her to a department store window when her step mother gives her a poison apple. Detective Prince kisses her and she awakens. I really liked this book.
What I liked most was the illustrations. This has to be one of the prettiest books I’ve seen in awhile. The illustrations are beautiful, and I would hang them on my wall if I could frame them. I want to study the drawings so I can find something new each time I look at them. The book truly is a work of art.
What I didn’t like about the book was that it ended. I really enjoyed it!
Book 35 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
BABYMOUSE: Our Hero! (hardcover)
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
AR Level 2, 0.5 points
I enjoy anything by Jennifer L. Holm, and Babymouse doesn’t disappoint. It is a lower reading level, and geared towards much younger students. Our Hero! follows Babymouse on her quest to not die at dodgeball.
What I liked about this book was that my first grader is reading it! She has just started reading the series, and I read the books along with her so I can ask questions when she’s done with the book. I want her to love reading, and the Babymouse series is a great way to start.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it can be hard to follow, because Babymouse is a dreamer with a vivid imagination, and she was often daydreaming, which can be tough for a new reader.
Book 22 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
American Born Chinese (paperback)
by Gene Luen Yang
AR Level 3.3, 1 point
American Born Chinese is 3 separate stories in one graphic novel, and they’re all connected at the end. The Monkey King struggles with not being recognized for who he thinks he is. Jin Wang is a Chinese immigrant in San Francisco who has a crush on a girl, but he cannot be with her, because he is Chinese. Danny is an American boy with a Chinese cousin who demonstrates all of the American stereotypes of Chinese people (accent, clothing, behavior, etc.). It turns out that Danny and Jin Wang are the same person, and the Monkey King comes and reminds Danny of who he really is. It is a confusing story, to be honest.
What I liked about this book was the way Chinese stereotypes were all laid out there for the reader, so there was no opportunity for them to think of their own. There was also an underlying message to be yourself and not to try so hard to be someone you’re not. Honestly, that was about it. I didn’t really care for this book.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was confusing. I get now how the 3 stories were connected, but only because I had to look it up. I blame being in a newborn fog from lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance, because I normally love books like this, but it just didn’t interest me.
Book 14 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
by Raina Telgemeier
AR Level 2.6, 1 point
I was so excited to finally get my hands on this graphic novel! I follow the author on Twitter, and I’ve been hearing about the hype for months now. I am truly becoming a big graphic novel fan and it was exciting to get to read in her voice again. I’ve gotten my students hooked on graphic novels (especially my reluctant readers), and I know there will be a fight over Ghosts.
Ghosts follows a family who moved from Southern California to Northern California for the sake of their youngest daughter’s health. Maya has cystic fibrosis and receives a breathing treatment and extra nutrition through a GI tube. They believe the foggy weather will help Maya’s symptoms. Cat is her older sister, and together they learn the history of their town, including a strong belief in ghosts and Dia de los Muertos, which is quickly approaching. They make friends with a neighbor named Carlos, and come face to face with some of the spirits they’ve welcomed, despite Cat’s fear of the ghosts and desperate desire to have something of her own (her friends). Cat has to come to terms with the possibility that Maya will someday become one of the ghosts, as well as her emerging feelings for Carlos.
What I liked about this book is what I like about Telgemeier’s other books. There is always some underlying theme or lesson to it, whether it is acceptance or respect for others. In Ghosts, the theme of family and friendship shines through. I also love the way she taught about Dia de los Muertos, something I didn’t previously know much about, but I can now understand a bit better. I think my students with families from Mexico will be able to relate to Cat’s traditions.
What I didn’t like about this book was that we didn’t see more of the blossoming relationship between Cat and Carlos, which I think a lot of my sixth grade girls would like to see. I would also have liked to see more of a connection between what Cat’s mom said about not having a good relationship with abuela due to her desire for Americanization, and the strain on Cat and her mom’s relationship, which I believe was meant to parallel each other. It is a great book!
Book 2 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)